Neiman Marcus to close most discount stores, focus on luxury

Neiman Marcus is ditching the off-price business and focusing on its high-end customers

NEW YORK -- Neiman Marcus is ditching the off-price business and focusing on its high-end customers.

The privately-held luxury retailer said that it's closing more than half of its remaining 22 Last Call stores, which sold designer brands at big discounts. The company said Wednesday the moves, which will result in 500 job cuts over the next eight months, are designed to free up resources to better focus on high-end customers.

As part of those efforts, the Dallas-based company is combining the online and store teams and will shift the role of sales associates to what it calls trusted client advisers who will help customers not just buy products but help them with dining options and other services like beauty and wardrobe styling. Neiman Marcus will also eliminate 250 non-selling associates.

Neiman Marcus Group CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck told The Associated Press that 40% of the company's sales are coming from customers who spend on average $50,000 a year.

Van Raemdonck said that bringing its stores online and equipping them with the best leadership, tools and support positions the retailer to deliver on its commitment to "'building long-term, deep customer relationships."

The company also said it plans to sell two Texas distribution centers.

Van Raemdonck declined to comment on how business has been affected by the new spreading virus, which is now being declared by the World Health Organization as a pandemic. But van Raemdonck said that it will have an impact on the economy, though he's not sure how long it will last. He noted that the company has set up an emergency team to deal with various scenarios.

“It's very uncertain, but we have to be level-headed and not panic,” said Van Raemdonck. "We need to be agile and decisive."

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